EPA Method TO-17

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EPA Method TO-17:
Determination of Volatile Organic Compounds in Ambient Air Using Active Sampling Onto Sorbent Tubes

The monitoring procedure involves pulling a volume of air through a sorbent packing to collect VOCs followed by a thermal desorption-capillary GC/MS analytical procedure.

This document describes a sorbent tube/thermal desorption/gas chromatographic-based monitoring method for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in ambient air at 0.5 to 25 parts per billion (ppbv) concentration levels. Performance criteria are provided as part of the method in Section 14. EPA has previously published Compendium Method TO-1 describing the use of the porous polymer Tenax? GC for sampling nonpolar VOCs and Compendium Method TO-2 describing the use of carbon molecular sieve for highly volatile, nonpolar organics (1). Since these methods were developed, a new generation of thermal desorption systems as well as new types of solid adsorbents have become available commercially. These sorbents are used singly or in multisorbent packings. Tubes with more than one sorbent, packed in order of increasing sorbent strength are used to facilitate quantitative retention and desorption of VOCs over a wide volatility range. The higher molecular weight compounds are retained on the front, least retentive sorbent; the more volatile compounds are retained farther into the packing on a stronger adsorbent. The higher molecular weight compounds never encounter the stronger adsorbents, thereby improving the efficiency of the thermal desorption process.

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